Every species of fish can be cooked in a variety of ways. However, there is one golden rule when cooking with fish – never overcook.
Fish is cooked when it looks white in colour or opaque and a fork or skewer goes easily into the flesh. Outlined below are some of the cooking methods for fish with cooking times indicated for fresh fish.
Seasoning and Herbs
Seasoning is very important in all forms of cooking and not enough emphasis is placed on the subject in cooking books. Use the best quality you can find, it is worth the extra pound or two and will provide more flavour than heavily processed salt and pepper. Use whole black peppercorns and sea salt and grind them as required during the cooking process.
Herbs work wonderfully well with fish, tradition says that parsley is the herb of choice, however fish will absorb wonderful flavours from fresh rosemary, lemon thyme, dill, basil, oregano. Dried herbs do not work as well because the cooking process with fish is too short. However, dried kaffir lime leaves in your stock or steaming process add a magnificent flavour of sweet lime.
Also include shallots, garlic, fresh ginger and lemon grass in your recipes the fish will love it.
Using a steamer is a wonderful way of experiencing the true taste of fish without interference from other ingredients. Cooking time is dependant on the thickness of the fish, 5 – 10 minutes for smaller fish and 10 -15 minutes for larger pieces. For extra flavour add dried kaffir lime leaves to the water before bringing to the boil.
Cooking in liquid is a quick, simple and healthy way of getting the best out of the fish. For the liquid use water, milk, stock, wine or cider – or a combination of these, add herbs and seasoning for extra flavour. Save some of the liquid to make a sauce. The liquid should always be just below boiling point. Cooking takes from about 5 minutes for cubes of fish to 10-15 minutes for thicker fish.
Place the fish in an oven-proof dish, with seasoning and herbs, lemon juice and or vegetables; add a little stock or wine. Alternatively enclose the fish in foil with herbs, seasoning and a few tablespoons of stock or wine.
Cook small whole fish or steaks for about 15-20 minutes depending on thickness at 200C/400F (Gas Mark 6) or large whole fish at a lower temperature 180C/350F (Gas Mark 4) for about 30-40 minutes.
Fish should be basted during cooking to prevent drying out; a medium heat is most suitable, with a cooking time usually between 8 and 10 minutes.
Small cubes of fish on skewers and thicker pieces of fish should be turned during cooking. But, small whole fish or thin pieces of fillet can easily be cooked without turning. Whole fish should be scored at the thickest parts to allow heat to penetrate.
Coat the fish in well seasoned flour and place into a frying pan with a small amount of oil or fat until the flour is cooked and lightly browned just 3-4 minutes each side will normally be sufficient as the fish does not need as much time as the flour to cook.
The fish needs to be protected from absorbing too much fat, so dust the fish first with seasoned flour or with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, oatmeal or batter. Heat the oil to 180C / 350F (Gas Mark 4) place the fish carefully into the oil and remove once the flour or batter is lightly browned. Drain the fish on absorbent kitchen paper before serving. Take extra care when cooking by this method.